Ask Amy

Tuesday, November 3, 2009; 12:00 AM

DEAR AMY: I'm a 12-year-old kid, and recently, when I was talking to one of my friends, she told me that her parents hit her.

I expressed my surprise, and she told me hitting was normal in her culture -- she's African-American.

She said it's just discipline.

She then told me that her mom once beat her in an IKEA store with a scrub brush.

I feel I should tell someone, but I'm afraid that this will break off a really good friendship.

What should I do? -- Conflicted in Maryland

DEAR CONFLICTED: I don't think hitting is "normal" in any particular culture, but hitting, striking or spanking is used as a form of punishment in various families.

I agree with you that -- no matter what you call it -- hitting is wrong; furthermore violence is not an effective form of discipline.

People respond differently to being hit, depending on how the punishment is given. A parent who beats a child with a scrub brush in a superstore isn't in control of her anger, and even if your friend thinks this is normal, to me it sounds painful and humiliating.

You should ask your friend how she feels about being punished in this way. Don't box her into a corner where she feels she needs to defend her parents, but because you are her friend, it's OK to ask.

You should also speak to your parents. They may suggest speaking with the school counselor.

I agree with your instinct to tell an adult when you're faced with a dilemma. Grown-ups don't always know what to do, but we definitely want to help.

CONTINUED     1           >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company